Choosing A Needle For Hand Sewing


Before I began sewing, I thought a needle was just … a needle. How wrong I was! Once I began making my own clothes in earnest, and learning the fine art of hand sewing, I discovered that a needle can become that most ritualised of objects.

Needles ii

My favourite needles are the teeny tiny black-with-gold-head Clover quilting no. 9 needles. You could swallow one of these and not notice – until it sliced through your innards. These things are tiny and sharp, perfect for delicate hand sewing. To use these, you will need a good light, a thimble and your specs. Maybe even a head torch.

The Japanese package contains two Sashiko needles, neither of which I’ve ever used because I’ve never done any of this type of stitching. Yet. Want to know what Sashiko is? Look at this lovely website.

Do you have a favourite type of needle for hand sewing? 

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39 Responses to Choosing A Needle For Hand Sewing

  1. sewbusylizzy says:

    I love Bohin needles. So smooth, easy to thread. Delightful!

  2. I love to make felties but I’ve yet to find a needle that’s sharp enough to be easy to use with multiple pieces of felt stacked on each other and still a big enough eye to thread embroidery thread. Would love suggestions!

    • Jen (NY) says:

      Take a look for Clover embroidery needles. They are really sharp and the large (longer) eye makes them easier to thread. Otherwise the sashiko needles (which are larger) would work well. Either can be used with a leather or palm-type thimble to push through multiple layers.

  3. barbara says:

    I haven’t heard of the black and gold clover needles, am always on the lookout for nice fine needles. I’ll see if I can find them and give them a try, thanks

  4. Kat says:

    I’m bananacakes about hand sewing and I love the Japanese needles from Susan Khalje’s website. The eye is nearly imperceptible, but worth every curse word. 🙂

  5. Sam says:

    Swallow one? I’ve always put pins and needles in my mouth to hold them momentarily while I adjust the fabric or move the trim or whatever.

    Until, that is, I read this horror story…


    I do enjoy handsewing, though; I find it quite relaxing.


  6. Daniela M. says:

    I actually didn’t know that it matters which needle you use for handsewing. I always choose the needle according to the thickness of my thread 🙂 It seams I have a bit of investigating to do!

  7. artgirlrachel says:

    My mom is a quilter, so growing up and when I was learning to sew that was the only type of needle I knew!

  8. Sewingjen says:

    As a seamstress I am never failed to be amazed by sewers who just use whatever needle they pick up. When I ask my dressmaking students when they last changed the needle in their sewing machine the answer is ALWAYS ” when it breaks” . I then show them the tip of a machine needle which has hit a pin, through a magnifying glass and they are amazed to see that the tip has actually formed a U shape. I then sew a line of stitching on fine sati and the needle causes the fabric to “ladder” and pull. Everyone is surprised and immediately go to their machines and change the needle.
    I explain to them that for the price of a packet of assorted sized needles approx £2 to £3 for decent ones, they may possibly ruin the lovely fabric which they have carefully selected and often paid good money for. I sew lots of different weights of fabric, which range from heavy furnishing leather and fine cotton, and then maybe alter a silk skirt, and always choose the correct needle for the job. Same goes for hand stitching.

    • LinB says:

      We should consider needles as “wear parts,” and be willing to toss the tossers and buy decent equipment to replace those dull and horrid needles frequently. (We should sharpen all our blades often, too, but that’s a different subject.) ((Also need to sometimes replace machine belts, but they are harder to assess than needles or blades.)) ((( Do you find that the parenthesis is an under-used punctuation mark?)))

    • Viveka Kyahti says:

      I know what you mean, I learned a long time ago that it’s best to change needles with every few garments or sooner depending on what you’re making. I don’t know how many friends have come to me complaining that their machines don’t only to discover all they have to do is change the needle and voila! instant new machine!

  9. maddie says:

    I’m not very picky when choosing sewing needles but maybe I should be. Thanks sewingjen for bringing those bits of information!

  10. Vicki Kate says:

    Those clover needles are divine! I love them but they are also seriously sharp which is great until lol you stab yourself with one! I adore them and because of the black and gold colour I feel like a sewing ninja when using them!

    • LinB says:

      At least the hole in your skin is small and has smooth edges, so it heals faster. Try not to bleed on the merchandise when you prick your finger! If it happens, remember that your own saliva is the best thing to use to remove your own blood from a fabric (hand-quilters become very comfortable at spitting on bloodstains).

  11. Jenny says:

    Oh, I’ll have to try those Clover needles! I bought some Japanese hand sewing needles from Susan Khalje once and they were excellent, but somehow I managed to lose them all which is… worrying. I did do a bit of sashiko a while ago, but I used a regular needle and it was fine, so luckily specialty needles are not a mandatory!

  12. Jen (NY) says:

    Suddenly sashiko is trendy. This is kind of funny for me–I took it up years ago after visiting Japan despite it seeming like a middle-age lady thing to do. (Defying middle age here). The real (vintage) sashiko is somewhat different from the modern decorative look, and I tend to prefer the former. When I started I was thrilled to get the same little pack of sashiko needles in the mail.

    Anyway, after a long hiatus from sewing, I also discovered that needles matter! My favorites are Clover embroidery needles. They are quite slim and extremely sharp, but the longer eyes make them a little easier to thread. No more generic needles from the five and dime.

  13. ebonyh says:

    I love hand stitching, but definitely need to make both a needle & thimble upgrade. My currents (randomly pulled from one of those $2 for a variety of 40 envelopes) really aren’t sharp enough. I’ve wanted to try the Japanese needles @Kat mentions, but perhaps I’ll have to try these little Clovers too! (Even though you totally creeped me out with the suggestion of swallowing one-Eeep!)

  14. Sewer from Across the Pond says:

    If I’m basting a straight line on an easy fabric I use a milliner’s needle and pick up several stitches. For more careful hand stitching, including basting, I use a 9 or 10 between, which is also what I use for pad stitching.

  15. I agree about the Bohin needles–I like the #10 milliners needles for just about everything!

  16. EmSewCrazy says:

    I use vintage needles whenever possible because they are much sharper and finer than the cheap modern needles I have. I’ll keep my eyes open for the Clovers and check out the other brands mentioned in the comments.

  17. I made it!! says:

    I seriously need to look at my needles again after reading this blog and it’s comments!

  18. Up until recently; I have been a ‘needle is a needle’ kind of gal…. But I notice big differences as I do more and more hand sewing. Thank you so much for the Sashiko link, I really enjoyed the site 🙂

  19. I really want to learn the technical differences between needles, but currently, whether for handsewing on my dresses, or my English paper piecing, I go for the finest needle I can find

  20. Bri says:

    I should probably pay more attention to my hand sewing needles! You certainly intrigue me after the post!

  21. Sewer from Across the Pond says:

    For smaller needles, I heartily recommend using a Clover Desk Needle Threader. It doesn’t work with every needle, but it works with enough to be very useful.

  22. Sheree says:

    Like a couple of others I like the Susan Khalje needles from her site. After I did the craftsy couture dress course I sent off for them. Love them, but have to admit (like you) before, my thoughts were a needle is a needle! Expensive, isn’t it, all this knowledge! The more you know, the more you desire the better things.

  23. I have a little pack of Flora McDonald needles – sorry, not in front of me, so if I have that as McDonald when it should be Macdonald, apologies – that were my grandmother’s and whose eyes are so fine that I can’t imagine thread that would actually go through them! None of mine ever does. And they’re so fine that I struggle to hold them

    That’s just a little aside. For handsewing, it depends what I’m sewing – for example, if it’s rescuing a backpack, I’m inclined to use a bag needle but for other tasks I’ll select according to fabric as much as I can – and I admit to hanging onto needles almost forever (because I DO rescue a lot of things for which I don’t want to use my good needles). I appreciate a good quality needle, though, because there’s no doubt they penetrate fabrics a little more readily.

  24. I will definetly prove those sharp needles, Karen, I see they sell them in Amazon.
    Speaking of tools, what about dress forms? I am looking for a good one, and I can’t find nothing suitable… Could you recomend us any available through the internet? Please… or maybe some of your readers… anyone? 🙂

  25. sewbutterfly says:

    I love the sharps (quilting needles) also!

  26. symondezyn says:

    I have always wanted to try the Japanese needles Susan Khalje sells on her website, but have not yet managed to find the stomach to pay $15 plus shipping haha. I’ve been thinking about Sashiko for a couple years now – eventually I’ll do it too. You’ve got one step ahead, already having the needles! ^_^

  27. tommied says:

    Thanks for your post…I just got a box of vintage sewing needles – was trying to figure out the difference between a darning needle and hand-sewing needle! Please check out Her mother’s sashiko is so amazing! It will inspire you.

  28. orange says:

    Thank you for the sashiko intro! I’d never realised the japanese embroidery I’d seen around was a special thing of its own (not surprising, really). I ended up buying all the supplies I need to get started from that website — she must be loving all the clicks coming through from you!

  29. I’ve kept meaning to say thanks. You got me onto the black and gold last year and they are excellent. I agree though they are the assassin of the needle world. They’re there one minute and hell knows where the next!

  30. These things are tiny and sharp, perfect for delicate hand sewing

  31. Pingback: How To Sew With Beeswax | Did You Make That?

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